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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith

Geek Girl

Geek Girl - Holly Smale Holly Smale's début novel is a story about a geeky girl who accidentally falls into the modelling business after being scouted at a clothes show. Normally, I'm not really a fan of the 'geek girl fixes her hair up and wears contacts and OMG she's so pretty without her glasses/geeky jumpers/bushy hair' trope, though I have enjoyed similar material in the past. Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries are nice and fluffy, and Hermione's transformation to belle of the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was actually the inspiration behind my prom look. (I couldn't quite get the right colour of dress, but hey.)Harriet is a girl who has extremely good general knowledge, reads a lot, and 'belongs to an Internet forum', but never quite got the hang of social skills. She has one childhood friend, Nat, who has wanted to be a model since she was little. Harriet is dragged along on a field trip with Nat one day to the Birmingham Clothes Show, and there she is scouted by a modelling agency. To begin with, this drives a wedge between their friendship, but Nat soon forgives Harriet, and from there on in we are privy to Harriet's new life as an up and coming model, whilst she juggles the drama between her family and her friends. It's written on quite a small scale, with few characters and set-pieces, but for this kind of story, that's enough.Everything kind of falls into Harriet's lap, really. I'm no model, but I'm quite sure there's more to it than just getting the job out of the blue one day. Yes, I know it's wish fulfilment – the idea that Tyra Banks would pop out of a bush some day on your walk home and whisk you off to the Paris catwalks, without ever having to audition for America's Next Top Model because you're the next big thing in fashion. It would never, ever happen in real life, and I accept that. Harriet's progression through the modelling industry is a bit too smooth a ride at times, but it is bumpy enough that I can give it a pass in the suspension of disbelief department.One of my biggest worries going into this book was that it would really pander to the awful geek stereotype. I know girls on my Facebook who go clubbing on so-called 'Geek Nights', wearing enormous Buddy Holly glasses and white shirts, drawing on giant freckles and putting their hair in plaited pigtails. I also know people who think The Big Bang Theory is the funniest, geekiest show on TV because it references so many comic books and geeky things, but... no. Its schtick is getting pretty tiring now. My kingdom for a book about or starring a geek character who doesn't conform to the nerdy stereotype!...And to begin with, Harriet does. I guess this is where she's finding her feet as a character, but it was pretty tiring to have to follow the narration of a character who is ridiculously oblivious (such as assuming that a stall owner at the clothes show is illiterate when they ask her: “Can you read that sign!?”), and childish (stating her age as 'fifteen and three twelfths' when asked). She also feels the need to assert her 'geek cred' on every page, though eventually, I got used to her voice and found the rest of the novel quite enjoyable. She's reacting just the way any other teenage girl in her shoes would, but with the added layer of being ridiculously gawky.I'm glad the novel didn't go so far as making Harriet into a bit of a joke character, who falls over all the time and has her interests and obliviousness played for laughs. It's a shame her personality remains so static, though. There's a big, supposedly triumphant scene near the end where Harriet decries the fashion business she's gotten herself into on live morning television, but it kind of loses its punch when her boss just comes over and tells her she's signed Harriet on for another year. As is the part when Harriet's crush confesses to her.There are other pay-offs which didn't quite work. Throughout the story, Harriet is confronted with a school bully named Alexa. She's characterised as the shallow Queen Bee of the school, who everybody tries to stay on the good side of. However, the only real thing she throws at Harriet is 'haha, geek', defacing her schoolbag, telling the headmistress that Harriet has bunked off to go to a shoot in Moscow, and... boiled sweets? (How old is Alexa, eight?)However, just before the end, Harriet goes with her friends Nat and Toby to Alexa's house to tell her they're not going to put up with her crap any longer. Alexa just sneers and closes the door on them after both parties have had their say, and... that was it?Holly Smale herself revealed over Twitter that the bullying is based off her own experiences, but I feel Alexa is a bit juvenile for a fifteen year old, and while I know not every story featuring bullying has this cathartic ending, I feel it could have gone out with a bit more of a bang.Definitely the strongest part of Geek Girl was the last 30%. The world comes down around Harriet's ears, and she has to grow up in a very short amount of time. She loses her friend, her step-mother walks out on her father, and she has this intense personal crisis of identity. Harriet is an incredibly self-loathing person, and it's a lovely moment when her step-mother gets her to realise that nobody hates her but herself, even if the pieces around that moment all fall into place a little too neatly.I'd also add that some of the drama in the book also read a bit unnecessary to me. I mean, the only real reason why Harriet falls out with Nat and her step-mother leaves her father is because of these ridiculous lies that could have been so easily explained. Instead of thrusting this wedge between Harriet and Nat, the breakdown of their friendship could have been better represented, rather than a few throwaway references to them no longer sharing common interests.All in all, it's a fairly pleasant read, and while Harriet can be annoying to read at first, she became pleasant enough as I read further on. Her circumstances do fall pretty easily into her lap, and some of the subplots are wrapped up without much aplomb, but if you're willing to ignore this, you'll get a sweet, oftentimes funny coming of age story. 3/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/book-review-geek-girl-by-holly-smale.html)